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Cops: Powder poured into Metropolitan Opera orchestra pit were ashes

An opera lover sprinkling the ashes of his mentor Saturday evening into the orchestra pit at the Metropolitan Opera prompted the evacuation of the theater while police investigated the incident, NYPD officials said.

A man in formal dress approached the orchestra pit during the second intermission about 4:30 p.m. and sprinkled powder from a bag on each side of the orchestra pit, police said at a news conference late Saturday at Lincoln Center.

The Met canceled the rest of the matinee performance of “Guillaume Tell” and later canceled an evening performance of “L’Italiana in Algeri” while NYPD counterterrorism officials and the Department of Public Health tested the substance.

Witnesses in the audience told police the man had traveled from out of town to sprinkle the ashes.

No injuries were reported. FDNY officials said two people at the opera refused medical attention.

Authorities were still testing the powder late Saturday to make sure it contained nothing harmful.

“Obviously the ashes of an opera lover’s mentor being sprinkled into the orchestra is an inconvenience, but a far cry better than anything else,” Opera general manager Peter Gelb said Saturday night.

Police did not release the name of the man who sprinkled the powder. Police said they did not expect to file any criminal charges.

The powder was spread toward the end of “Guillaume Tell,” Italian composer Gioachino Rossini’s opera about folk hero William Tell. It is being performed at Lincoln Center for the first time in more than 80 years, according to the Met.

Opera officials told the audience “a technical issue” was responsible for the cancellation.

“We appreciate opera lovers at the met. We hope they will not bring their ashes with them,” Gelb said.

Theatergoers were told they could reschedule to see another performance by calling 212-362-6000.

CORRECTION:  A previous version of this story misstated the time of the incident.


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